One part The Castle, one part The Magic Faraway Tree, and three parts fantastical fun – Barry and the Fairies of Miller Street receives a full five out of five and can be sent straight to the Kerrigan family pool room.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the 1997 Australian comedy film The Castle when reading this book. The voices of the central characters were so ocker Aussie that I imagined them all with a Michael Caton inflection.
From the charming turns-of-phrase such as “my oath” and “his nibs”, to the plot of the everyday townsfolk standing up against evil urban developers – even Pop’s over-crowded shed could have all been a precursor for the Kerrigans.
But Dickins seems to have also drawn heavily from Enid Blyton, with Gert and Barry’s adventures into the back of his suburban yard and into the boughs of the Story Tree.
This book has a lot of heart and is very charming. I defy anyone not to love Barry’s innocence, or to cheer for Gert with gusto. However, for me, the fictional elements of the story detracted from its autobiography.
The fairies were a whole lot of fun. I outwardly giggled at their cheekiness, clever wordplay, and smatterings of fairy facts. But whenever Barry disappeared into fairyland, I wished that he would stay back and eavesdrop on an adult conversation or two.
By writing the book entirely from Barry’s innocent perspective, without any benefit of adult reflection or hindsight, I felt that some key elements of the story were sorely missed. If only the all-seeing, all-knowing fairies answered some of the questions that Barry couldn’t: Why was it necessary for him to spend his holidays at Miller Street? Why was it only his Dad that came to visit? Were the interludes with the fairies Barry Dickins’ way of shying away from presenting all the facts of his childhood, and avoiding an unpleasant rendezvous with his memories?
This book offers some sweet nostalgia, blended with no-nonsense Aussie fun – in all it’s a story about love, family, imagination, and the power of community spirit. The intricate drawings are also a delight – they are quizzical and scrawling and so detailed that it’s like decoding a secret message before each chapter. No matter how many times you look, you always find something new.
Review by Danielle Roddick. Read Danielle’s blog here